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Narrowing the pool of couples
The next stage is the workshops. This involves each of the experts researching each of the candidates left in the pool. MAFS is certainly not an exact science and the process is continually evolving and developing. The candidates all undergo the same highly sophisticated process. Dr. Pepper also conducts in-house visits, whereby she assesses the short listed candidates homes and sees how they interact with family and friends.
Throughout the process the experts are continually narrowing down the pool. In doing so, they face many challenges including the fact that some candidates meet all of their criteria yet they just don’t have a match for them within the pool. This is often due to candidates’ preferences and deal breakers. The experts honor the candidates’ preferences and deal breakers concerning race, religion and values with absolute importance.
As I previously mentioned, MAFS isn’t a perfect science. We are emotionally driven beings and ultimately often behave in an unpredictable manner. Many of the experts’ assessments are self- rapport. This means they are centered on how the individuals view themselves. So the experts must assess whether the way individuals assess themselves is in fact indicative of the way they are.
I think a further challenge comes in that even if the experts assess that a candidate has good insight into himself or herself they cannot guarantee that the participants will always be able to execute changes and work on their issues when conflicts arise. The experts’ estimate how the candidates might respond under the extreme pressure of a blind arranged marriage with the added stress of being documented.
There are so many variables to consider, and I don’t believe it’s possible to truly know how the potential brides and grooms will respond to the process and each other. This makes the matching process very stressful for the experts and the production team. We want the matched couples to have a positive experience and ultimately find love with each other. Unfortunately, the experts cannot guarantee this outcome and never promise that they will find someone their perfect match.
After the matches have finally been confirmed and revealed, the brides and grooms have approximately two stress-filled weeks to prepare for their weddings. At the weddings, we are all on tenterhooks as we have no way of knowing how the brides and grooms will react to their stranger spouse or whether they will back out and run.
Once the candidates are matched and meet at the altar each and every decision is theirs. We adapt our shooting schedules around the couples lives and working hours. We pre-arrange a honeymoon for them but the couples make their own decisions on where to sleep, where to live, how to spend their time and how to spend their money, etc. We document the couples for the first six weeks of their marriage before they decide if they want to stay married or get divorced.
We are not in control of the way these couples interact with one another. The experts offer guidance, assignments and help throughout the process but ultimately the couples create the rules and dynamics of their relationship. They are like any other married couple, and though they met and married a complete stranger, they do so of their own free will. Ultimately they will decide whether to stay married or get a divorce.
We all want the couples to fall in love and live happily ever after, but, there is no pressure or financial incentive for the couples to stay married, it is completely and utterly their decision. Once the experiment is over, each participant is offered aftercare to support him or her whether they choose to stay married or get divorced.
The unpredictability of marriage—and social media reaction
One thing we can’t fully predict or emotionally prepare the couples for is the reaction they will receive on social media. It’s so easy for anyone to anonymously go online and write anything about anyone. We cannot censor the Internet. It is particularly tough for couples that choose to divorce, as they are recovering from the breakdown of their marriages whilst being publicly criticized on social media. It can be overwhelming and upsettingly stressful.
Married at First Sight evokes an emotional reaction in everyone when they hear the premise for the first time. In addition, it’s a show about relationships and thus a topic each and everyone of us can relate to and has experience of. As such, everyone forms opinions of the data to day struggles and interactions the couples go through, Many people feel compelled to share their thoughts online; we have a large twitter following.
I am incredibly grateful that people feel compelled to tweet and share their thoughts; as a producer it’s important for me to understand the public opinion on MAFS and as an enthusiast of MAFS I am fascinated by what people have to say and I enjoy reading the conversation. However, it can be incredibly hard for the couples to endure.
The toughest part about this show is shielding our talent from the keyboard warriors that lurk on social media, viewers who are quick to want to unearth some dirty secret or name-call. That is something no one signs up for. It is already a difficult task to marry a stranger and learn to manage in front of the cameras, but to also survive public scrutiny—there is a reason why we say our participants are unbelievably brave. These are folks who will stop at nothing to find love.
Online rumors and outright lies are par for the course. In this day and age people love a good train wreck and they love to take a wholesome concept, a show that is truly dedicated to the science of love, and attach their own theories and ideations. It’s unfortunate and for our participants, very unfair, but social media is a big part of the TV consuming experience now. On the flip side, we are aware that true fans are passionate about the ultimate happiness of these couples. And for that we try to focus on the positive and ask that our couples do the same.
The one thing all of our brides and grooms have agreed upon so far, despite their decisions to stay married or get divorced, is that they have all learned so much about themselves throughout this experiment. Lessons they will hopefully take with them and use for the rest of their lives. That is, perhaps, the most gratifying element.
Married at First Sight is raw and unpredictable. The stakes are high and very real; the couples legally marry and face divorce if it doesn’t work. Marriage can be hard and divorce can be even harder. This social experiment doesn’t involve big stunts or set ups, instead, it follows the everyday hopes and struggles of married couples.
We all want to find love and we all want love to win for others and ourselves. It’s incredibly sad when our couples don’t find love, but exhilarating when they do. I will be forever grateful to each of the brave and remarkable participants who trusted the experts, married a stranger and allowed us to document their journeys together. They allow us into their lives to capture their hopes, desires, dreams, vulnerabilities, celebrations and sometime disappointments.
I’ve worked in television for 15 years and without question this is the most risky, memorable, thought-provoking, well-intentioned, and extraordinary format I’ve ever been involved with. Simply put it is very, very special to me.